Max Afinogenov could be the Thrashers' biggest offseason acquisition.
Afinogenov helped the Thrashers earn a point in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Boston. The speedy forward scored with 41.4 seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime. However, the Thrashers had their four-game win streak snapped when Boston’s Patrice Bergeron scored the lone goal of the shootout.
The game-tying goal was Afinogenov's eighth of the season, not bad for a player who made the Thrashers' roster on a pro tryout.
“I don’t know about that,” Afinogenov said when asked if he was the team’s biggest offseason pickup. “I just try to do my job and play my best.”
In the shootout, Rich Peverley, Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk all were stopped by Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask. The Thrashers fell to 10-6-2 (22 points) and 4-4-1 at home.
“We did get a point,” Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian said. “We battled back, but it’s obviously not the outcome we want. We got a point out of it, and that’s the positive, but we’ve got to play a better game if we are going to win some hockey games.”
The Thrashers came back from a two-goal deficit after the first period and a one-goal deficit after the second period.
Boston’s Michael Ryder scored his second goal of the game with five seconds remaining on a hooking penalty on Peverley late in the second period to put the Bruins ahead 3-2. Boston held the lead until the final minute of regulation, setting up Afinogenov’s heroics.
With the Thrashers' goal empty, Kovalchuk found Afinogenov alone in front of the net in a mad scramble.
“I tried to hang around in the slot there, and Kovy made a great pass,” Afinogenov said. “I was alone there and had some time. I just picked a corner and scored.”
The Thrashers again started slowly. The Bruins took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Marco Strum and Ryder. The Thrashers fell to 3-6-2 when the opposition scores first.
“They would back up to the neutral zone and had five guys in one area,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said of Boston's first period. “Once we got over center ice, we were trying to go through everybody instead of chipping it in deep and making them go back to get the puck. If you turn it over, your [defense] is under huge pressure coming back. They did that very well in the first period and as a result got a couple of goals.”
The Thrashers battled back with second-period goals by Nik Antropov -- his first of the season -- and Kovalchuk.
Antropov pulled the Thrashers to within 2-1 by tipping a Tobias Enstrom shot past Rask. Kovalchuk set up the play with a beautiful backhand drop pass to Enstrom, who fired on net.
Kovalchuk tied the game with his 13th goal of the season -- a power-play goal at the 14:23 mark. Afinogenov sent a cross-ice pass to Enstrom, who found Kovalchuk for a scoring blast.
The Thrashers were just 1-for-7 on the power play. They failed to tie the score with a man-advantage with 5:51 remaining after Boston’s Dennis Wideman was called for hooking as Kozlov was breaking in on Rask. A penalty shot was not awarded to the Thrashers.
“He said he didn’t feel he impeded him on a play to the net,” Anderson said of the referee’s decision. “Well, I vehemently disagree because he hooked him and threw him off stride. Even if you get the shot away, if he’s changed your direction in any way to go to the net, and that should be a penalty shot. That’s just my opinion. I guess everybody has an opinion.”
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 39 of 42 shots he faced as the Thrashers were again outshot. He stopped Blake Wheeler in the shootout after allowing Bergeron’s goal.
"Our penalty kill came up big for us in the end," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "That [Afinogenov] goal at the end could have been a killer, but our guys decided that we weren't going to allow that to be the winner. We found a way to win. Tuukka Rask came up big in the shootout."
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